Wednesday February 6, 2013Live Blog: 2013 Gators National Signing Day (Update -- 5:00 p.m. with Muschamp's initial comments)
GatorZone.com will have complete coverage of Florida's 2013 National Signing Day throughout the day.
GatorZone.com will have complete coverage of Florida's 2013 National Signing Day throughout the day.
UPDATED 5:00 p.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Attention today targeted the 20 newest members of the Gators football team, those players who signed on National Signing Day.
Florida added eight early enrollees in January and those players are already in the program: LB Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa.), DL Darius Cummings (FSU/East Mississippi CC), DL Joey Ivie (Pasco High), LB Daniel McMillian (First Coast High/Jacksonville), OL Tyler Moore (Nebraska transfer), WR Demarcus Robinson (Peach County, Ga.), LB Matt Rolin (Ashburn, Va.) and RB Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade Glades Day).
GatorZone.com checked in with each player’s primary recruiters on Florida’s coaching staff to learn more about the newcomers.
Anzalone, McMillian and Rolin are linebackers and were heavily involved with defensive coordinator/linebackers coach D.J. Durkin on the recruiting trail.
Anzalone is listed at 6-3, 220; McMillian is listed at 6-3, 220, and Rolin was listed at 6-4, 205 coming out of Briar Woods (Va.) High.
Here is our Q&A with Durkin on Anzalone:
Q: What makes Alex a good prospect at this stage of his career?
A: He’s got a unique set of skills for the size he is and how well he moves. He came to camp here and it’s very impressive for a guy his size. He moves effortlessly. He changes direction and he bends well. That’s a unique thing. I don’t know where his ceiling is. He’s going to come in and we’ll probably start him out at Mike and Will and he might play Sam and Buck and everything in between. His versatility is going to be huge for us. You don’t find many guys like that. When you look across the country, there are not many guys that size who can move that well.
Q: How can enrolling early help him individually?
A: The biggest thing obviously is to learn the defense. Physically it will help to be in our weight program and running and nutrition and all those things. But for Alex, he’s really developed. He’s got a mature body physically. Learning our defense will get him on the field faster than anything. I think it’s invaluable for him to come in early, go through the 15 practices in the spring, and then all of a sudden you’re like a veteran when camp starts in August.
Q: He’s gotten a lot of exposure on the recruiting trail, so how fortunate were you to get him?
A: His path to get here wasn’t the most common one. He bounced around a little bit. He visited here probably eight or nine times, probably more than anyone. All along we kept thinking we were going to get in but it never came out that way until the end. We are sure happy to have him.
Here is our Q&A with Durkin on McMillian:
Q: What makes him a good prospect at this stage?
A: Daniel is unique in how well he moves and how fast he is. He has dynamic speed for the position. You go watch him play and he’s the fastest-moving guy on the field. And he has size as well to go with it. The biggest thing for him is that he is no problem playing man-to-man on a back, the tight end and even some receivers. He can do that right away.
Q: What else have you learned about him?
A: He’s hungry to get better. He’s a guy through this recruiting process – a lot of guys want to hear you tell them how good they are. He didn’t want to hear any of that. All he wants to hear about is what he can do to get better. He is a very coachable guy. You can’t ask for more than that as a coach – a guy who wants to learn and is already a heckuva player.
Q: How did he get on your radar?
A: We’ve had our eye on him for a while. He’s a hard one to miss. I think he is a great player. I think Coach Quinn [former Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn] was actually at a practice of his when he was a sophomore. He was there to watch someone else and was like, ‘Holy Cow, who is this guy.’ From that point on we just jumped on it. We have building that relationship with him for quite some time. He’s got good personality to him. He’s a character. He had a phenomenal senior year. He’s a guy you will see out on the field. He’s got that kind of ability.
Finally, our Q&A with Durkin on Rolin: (Note -- Rolin is recovering from knee surgery and won’t be available for spring practice)
Q: What’s unique about Matt as he joins the program?
A: He’s a long-bodied guy. When you watch his highlights, he had some great highlights playing receiver and tight end and going to catch the ball. He’s playing linebacker for us but that just tells you what kind of athlete he is. He’s got great ball skills. He can adjust, he’s athletic, he can move. He’s another guy that for how big he is, he bends really well. He comes off the edge and has pass-rush ability.
Q: He’s from Ashland, Va., how did he jump on the radar?
A: We were up in that area and went by the school to see him. We knew him by tape, but it was one of those deals where he had gotten some offers already. It’s not an area we recruit all the time. We really liked him and went to see him at school and found out there was interest there. We’ve always just kind of hung in there with him and kept the relationship open. When I knew there was an opening in the door, we went real hard after him.
UPDATED 4:15 p.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida head coach Will Muschamp wrapped up his National Signing Day press conference a short while ago. You can check back with GatorZone.com later for a story highlighting what Muschamp had to say about this year’s class.
For now we’ll get back to individual recruits. One of the last LOIs to arrive today was from defensive lineman Jay-nard Bostwick from St. Lucie West Centennial High.
And yes, there is a hyphen in his first name. I checked with Gators assistant Travaris Robinson, Bostwick’s primary recruiter. Bostwick is of Bahamian descent and was a player Robinson worked hard to secure a commitment from.
Bostwick has many of the tools coaches look for in high-quality interior linemen.
Here is our Q&A with Robinson on Bostwick:
Q: What can you tell us about Jay-nard?
A: A tremendous player. I think Jay-nard is an exceptional player. He is really talented. He’s got a great, great family who is supportive of him and wants him to do well.
Q: What helped you land Jay-nard?
A: I tell you the one thing that was really a good deal for us is [defensive tackles coach] Bryant Young. Jay-nard sees himself in him. They’ve got the same characteristics; they’ve got the same traits. He sees himself as Bryant Young. He’s not so talkative. They kind of whoop people and move on. That’s their talking.
Q: What can you say about him from a physical standpoint?
A: He will be a three-technique guy. He is a guy who hopefully can come in and did what Sharrif [Floyd] did. Sharrif was pretty good and I don’t know if he can replace Sharrif, but he is a guy who is definitely a candidate to come in and do that. He’s strong. He’s 295 right now and 6-3. He’s got initial quickness. He’s got explosion. He’s got finish. He’s got the different things that it takes to be successful inside. He just needs to come in and get ready to bang.
While we’re talking about defensive linemen, Caleb Brantley is one of the seven the Gators added in this year’s recruiting class. Brantley is from Crescent City and checks in at 6-3, 295 pounds.
Florida defensive tackles coach Bryant Young spent a lot of time recruiting Brantley.
Here is a Q&A with Young about Brantley:
Q: What makes him an intriguing prospect in your view?
A: He has a knack for getting off the ball. He is quick, a very quick-twitch guy. Good lower-body strength and he can run for a big guy. And he carries his weight well. He’s got a good-looking body. His body is going to change, but for a 300-pound guy, he has the right body type to play inside.
Q: When you are looking at an interior lineman like Brantley, what is the first thing you look for?
A: I want to see his get-off, his pad level and his hand placement. His change of direction, short-area quickness, and then critical areas are lower-body flexibility and just being instinctive – how they play blocks and chase to the ball.
Q: How did he get on your radar?
A: He came to our camp. He was really raw then and did some unique things. He had quickness and could move pretty well. He was still young but you could see early on that he had the skill-set we are looking for.
UPDATED 1:50 p.m. (Muschamp’s initial comments on 2013 class)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Will Muschamp has a press conference scheduled for approximately 3:15 p.m. to discuss the Gators’ 2013 signing class.
In between phone calls and meetings early this afternoon, GatorZone.com caught up with Muschamp for a few minutes in his office.
With the addition of defensive lineman Jarran Reed (East Mississippi CC) in the last hour, the Gators have officially added 20 players on National Signing Day in addition to the eight early enrollees who are already on campus and will participate in spring practice -- other than for linebacker Matt Rolin, who is rehabbing a torn knee ligament.
Muschamp is pleased with the way the Gators identified many of their top prospects early on the recruiting trail, secured verbal commitments from them and then built relationships that turned into signatures on LOIs today.
“People talk about closing – what’s the difference between closing in March and closing on Signing Day,’’ Muschamp said. “Does it lessen the player’s value because you got him early? I think we’re all pretty happy we got [defensive back] Vernon Hargreaves. We all think he is pretty good, whether or not we got him on Signing Day really doesn’t matter. Here is a young man who could have gone anywhere in the country and he took one visit. He came to the University of Florida.
“I use Vernon as an example, not to single him out. I don’t buy into this idea of closing maybe as much other people do. You go out and you do your due diligence. It’s about building relationships and building trust. Maybe some of our guys weren’t into the glitz and glamour of signing day. We want blue-collar guys who are going to come in here with the right kind of character and integrity and do it the right way.”
This is Muschamp’s third recruiting class since taking over the program in early 2011. It’s also the deepest, loaded with 16 players -- linebackers and linemen that Muschamp likes to call ‘combo players’ -- vital to play along the line of scrimmage in the rough-and-tumble SEC.
“First of all, we addressed a lot of needs,’’ Muschamp said. “We signed some very good players. Whenever you sign a big class, you’ve got to have a deep board, which requires more work, more evaluation, an extreme amount of effort by your staff. I want to compliment our coaching staff and support staff for the job they did.
“On top of that, when you sign a big class, it takes kids who want to compete,’’ Muschamp added. “We signed five wide receivers. We’ve got five guys who want to compete. That’s the key to me when you sign a number of guys at a position. They’ve got to be willing to buy into to competing, and that’s tough. But when you come to Florida, it’s about competing for championships, and that’s what these kids understand about the process.”
UPDATED 11:40 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators enter spring camp with Jeff Driskel firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback.
That is different from a year ago when Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, who recently transferred to N.C. State, entered camp in a tightly contested battle.
The Gators also have Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg returning at quarterback behind Driskel.
On Wednesday the Gators officially added 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback Max Staver from Brentwood Academy in Brentwood, Tenn., to the roster.
Staver selected the Gators over Memphis and Louisville and while big, he is not nearly the biggest quarterback Gators offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Pease has worked with.
That would be former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who checked in around 6-4, 285 pounds when Pease was at Kentucky in the early 2000s.
We caught up with Pease for a Q&A about Staver, who threw for 1,872 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior to start garnering attention from colleges.
Here is our Q&A with Pease:
Q: What makes Staver an intriguing prospect?
A: The thing about him is the offense that he’s been in is pretty spread. He is a big kid. I think there are some things he does have to improve on athletically, but he kind of came on at the end. He really started to show up in these Elite 11s. I visited a lot with [former NFL quarterback] Trent Dilfer on the kid, and he really took a liking and thought this kid was going to explode. I think he had a good year. He came here, he competed. He throws the ball extremely well. He’s got a very strong arm and is accurate.
Q: At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, can he move pretty well for that size?
A: Yeah, he can move well enough. I mean, is he Jeff Driskel? Probably not. There would be a few things we would have to do differently, but he’ll get better and better, especially once he gets into our weight program.
Q: How did he get on your radar?
A: I think he got on our radar through just some film evaluation we got.
Q: How important was adding a quarterback to this class?
A: You try and sign a quarterback every year. I want to get to where this place was kind of like I knew it on the outside. You’ve got two or three guys that are NFL-type guys here, and they compete and earn their time. You don’t want to be quarterback-poor.
UPDATED 11:11 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Linebacker was a position the Gators sought to reload with the loss of two veteran starters in senior Jon Bostic and junior Jelani Jenkins leaving early for the NFL Draft.
Florida added four linebackers in this class, including early enrollees Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa.), Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville) and Matt Rolin (Ashburn, Va.).
We will roll out Q&As with the early enrollees here on GatorZone.com starting Thursday.
As for today, Florida signed LB Jarrad Davis out of Camden County High in Kingsland, Ga.
Davis is listed at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds.
New Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is also the Gators’ linebackers coach. We caught up with Durkin to get his thoughts on Davis and the overall talent added at the position in this recruiting class.
Here is our Q&A with Durkin:
Q: What can you tell me about Davis as a player?
A: He’s a high-motor guy that loves football, has great energy, enthusiasm and personality. He plays the game really fast and physical – puts his face right on you. We’re thrilled to have him. He’s from a high school [Camden (Ga.) County] where they’ve had great history, a lot of players and great football there. Those coaches there can’t say enough great things about him and they've’ had a lot of great players. His leadership ability, his skills and how he loves the game.
Q: What was the plan in reloading talent at the position?
A: The style of play we’re doing on defense, and playing some 3-4 and 4-3, we need some guys with some size in there. The great thing about those guys is that they can move well, too. Those guys can all play several different roles for us. The common denominator is that they are all great kids who love football. They are all hungry and excited to learn. I mean that’s a great group of linebackers coming in together.
Q: How heavy of an emphasis placed on that position this recruiting season?
A: Very heavy. We’re not where we need to be depth-wise at the position right now. With those guys coming in we will be. You come out of the season and obviously with Jelani moving on, and losing Jon Bostic and Lerentee McCray, there are some big shoes to fill. And we have some guys on the roster who are very capable, but we don’t have enough. The whole thing was to get more and that’s what we did.
UPDATED 10:49 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The latest LOI received and validated by the Gators is from defensive back Marcell Harris of Orlando Dr. Phillips High.
Harris is known as a physical player who can deliver a hit with his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame.
He also has strong ties to the Gators – his father Mike Harris played at UF from 1994-97.
We caught up with defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson to get his thoughts on Harris, the 18th player added to the program this morning in addition to the eight early enrollees.
Here is the Q&A with Robinson:
Q: How would you describe Marcell as a player?
A: I tell you, Marcel is very, very explosive. A big body. He can cover from sideline to sideline. People look at him and see him and he looks like a linebacker, just his physique. But he moves like a DB. Sometimes they [high school team] even played him at corner. He’s got great coverage ability; he’s got great instincts in the box; he’s got great deep presence. I mean, he’s got all the things you need to be a great safety. He wants to be successful and being successful is important to him.
Q: What got him on your radar?
A: He came to camp. [Running backs coach] Brian White was recruiting him early. When I saw him at camp and then I went in there and watched his tape … you could see him doing it on every level. Different defenses, different styles, different schemes. He can do it all. He’s a fierce hitter now. He is a guy who is going to electrify The Swamp. The guy can really bring it.
Q: How does Marcel take the comparisons to his dad, former Gator Mike Harris (1994-97)?
A: He doesn’t want to be compared to his dad. He wants to make a name for himself. In the recruiting process that was kind of a back-and-forth battle. ‘Do I want to go there?’ Nah, he is going to be his own guy. He is going to do what he needs to do. He is going to be able to do that. His dad can attest to that. Marcel is a really, really good player. It’s hard to compare him to anyone.
UPDATED 10:30 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Is anyone else’s head spinning out there like mine? No other day in sports quite as crazy as National Signing Day.
As of this post, the Gators have added 17 players so far in addition to the eight early enrollees that joined the program in January.
The latest player to get his paperwork in is offensive lineman Trenton Brown of Georgia Military Academy. Brown is big. REAL BIG, like in 6-foot-7, 345 pounds.
Offensive lineman Octavius Jackson (Colquitt County [Ga.] High) and defensive back Keanu Neal (South Sumter High in Bushnell) are also in.
Brown and Jackson join Cameron Dillard, Roderick Johnson and Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore (an early enrollee) in this year’s class of offensive linemen.
We caught up with Gators offensive line coach Tim Davis for more on Brown and Jackson.
Here is our Q&A with Davis about Jackson, listed at 6-4, 275:
Q: What led you to him on the recruiting trail?
A: We saw tape on him first. His tape was really good. We wanted to see how big he was. When he came to our camp and saw that he had great length, which is good for separation issues. He was able to create leverage, a real powerful kid off the lower body. Probably not a tackle; probably a guard down the line, but he could play tackle.
Q: What makes him a good prospect?
A: He is very physical at the point of attack. And then he understands the game. He is also a real self-motivated kid. He wants to be the best. The other thing I like about him was that he wasn’t worried about playing left tackle or right tackle or wherever – ‘I want to play. Put me in.’ – and those kids are valuable. Guys who can play all three inside positions are really valuable. He has a lot of those qualities.
Q: What about the overall depth added at OL in this recruiting class?
A: If you could have three deep at each position, you are doing really good. Because of the physicality of the SEC, you are always going to run out of them. If you don’t recruit a bunch of them in one year, there is a big whole the following year. You are always playing catch up. Five is a good number for us to add.
Meanwhile, here is our Q&A with Davis regarding Brown:
Q: What kind of prospect is he?
A: You need that size. He can really bend for a big guy and really get it off the edge. He’s got great length and great separation. I look for kids who can come off the mark and really help you. When you get one of those big guys in there, it helps your run game, it helps your pass game. He is really nimble for a big kid.
Q: What kind of athlete is he at 6-7, 345 pounds?
A: His dad played basketball and his brother played basketball. He’s got that him in. They are good athletes – not just big, but good. He’s not fat. He’s intelligent and he’s really got a good way about him. He played right and left tackle and can move.
UPDATED 9:53 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators coach Will Muschamp doesn’t put much stock in the star system used by recruiting analysts. The eye test is what interests him in evaluating a player.
Defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III passes on both accounts according to recruiting analysts and coaches.
Hargreaves was one of the top prep players in the country last season at Tampa’s Wharton High.
We caught up with Gators defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson to get his thoughts on Hargreaves III:
Here is the Q&A:
Q: Why is Hargreaves III considered such a good prospect?
A: He’s got all the skills we’re looking for. His ball skills are outstanding. He has a great vertical jump. He’s got finish down the field. He played both ways. He played some offense at receiver, so that talks of his ball skills. He’s the best corner coming out. He’s got to come in and learn what to do, but he’s exactly what we’re looking for from an athletic standpoint. He is physical and does all the things we need.
Q: What caught your eye about Vernon the first time you saw him play in person?
A: He’s strong. He’s got really strong hands, he moves very well, and he’s got great lateral quickness as well as vertical speed. When I went to see him play, he made some amazing catches that showed his vertical leap and showed his range.
Q: How does he fit in here defensively?
A: They really played him a lot at safety just so he could play on both sides of the field. When he just found a home at corner, which he did in the Under Armour Game, I thought that was kind of a milestone for him. I told him he was going to have a lot of spotlight on him as the No. 1 [ranked] corner in the country. A lot comes with that. The one thing I wanted to try and see was how when the grand stage is there, how would he respond. He responded very, very, very, very well. He was excited about his performance. I was excited about his performance. I think that speaks volumes about this kid.
Q: As the son of a coach, can you tell he’s got a higher football IQ than some young players?
A: No question. The guy has been around ball his whole life. He kind of got his start when he was at the University of Miami, his dad [was a coach] there for a while. His dad always talked about that and showed him pictures of him backpedaling with the guys … he remembers that. He knew this was something that he wanted to do for a long time. College football is hard, and he knows that because he has seen that – the football part, the academic part, the social part, all of it. He understands the game. He sees it before it happens. That’s what enables him to jump up on routes and do things like that.
Meanwhile, here are the official bios for Hargreaves and seven other players who are signed, sealed and delivered:
Vernon Hargreaves III, Defensive Back
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Totaled 110 tackles, 5 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles and 5 pass breakups as a senior…Also scored five touchdowns and five two-point conversions and averaged 34 yards per kickoff return…Named All-Western Conference, All-Hillsborough, All-Suncoast, All-State, Class 8A Defensive Player of the Year and the Guy Toph Award winner as Hillsborough County’s top senior football player…Finalist for the 2012 Florida Dairy Farmers Mr. Football Award…Named the Tampa Bay Times All-Hillsborough Defensive Player of the Year and a USA Today First Team All-American…Named the MVP of the Under Armour All-America game after a team-high 5 tackles, one interception and a pass breakup…Competed on the Southeast team at Champion Gridiron Kings where he had six interceptions and earned Defensive MVP honors…Earned a spot on the 247Sports Class of 2013 All-America team…Named the Tampa Bay Times Blue Chipper of the Year…Competed in the Sling-n-Shoot 7-on-7 tournament at USF…Defensive MVP from the IMG Madden 7-on-7 National Championship…As a junior in 2011, had 49 tackles and 2 interceptions, along with 11 offensive touchdowns…As a sophomore in 2010, had 44 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions…Chose Gators over an estimated 50 offers including Clemson, Vanderbilt, Miami and Notre Dame…His father, Vernon Hargreaves Jr., is the defensive ends and special teams coach at USF and his older sister, Carina, is on the club competitive cheerleading squad at UF…Vernon Jr. was named a member of UConn’s 100th Anniversary Team, commemorating the best football players in the programs first 100 years…Coached by David Mitchell.
Marqui Hawkins, Wide Receiver
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Attended MVP Camp in Hampton, Ga…Recorded a 4.53-second 40-yard dash…Had 31 catches, 635 yards and five touchdowns as a junior…Picked Florida over Clemson among 15 offers, which also included Tennessee, Southern Cal, and North Carolina.
Jarrad Davis, Linebacker
Kingsland, GA/Camden County
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Helped Camden County to an 11-2 record and the quarterfinals of the Georgia Class AAAAAA state playoffs during his senior season…Finished his final year of high school with 114 tackles, 69 being solo stops, to lead the team (5.0 TFL) with three forced fumbles…In 2011, finished the year with 61 tackles, 15 for loss with two sacks and two forced fumbles…Chose Florida over Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Clemson…Coached by Jeff Herron
Caleb Brantley, Defensive Line
Crescent City, FL/Crescent City
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Named the top 2013 defensive tackle at the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge…Competed in the Orlando Nike Football Training Camp and The Opening…Played in the Under Armour All-American Game in January…Recorded 94 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries as a senior…Named to the Florida Class 1A All-State First Team in 2012…Chose Florida over Alabama, Auburn, Cal, Florida State, Miami, Ole Miss, Purdue, South Florida, Tennessee, and Southern Cal…Coached by Alvin Carter.
Roderick Johnson, Offensive Line
Delray Beach, FL/American Heritage
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.…Selected Florida over Florida State and West Virginia…Coached by Stacy Sizemore
Chris Thompson, Wide Receiver
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Has recorded a 4.37 40-yard dash…First Team All-Area WR by The Gainesville Sun…Helped Gainesville to a 14-1 record and berth in the Class 6A state title game in 2012…Reached the Regional Finals in 2011 after a 12-3 record…GHS had a 47-9 record in his four years…Had 26 catches for 489 yards and 4 TDs as a sophomore…Was a Gainesville Sun first-team all-area selection in track & field…Coached by James Thomson.
Max Staver, Quarterback
Brentwood, TN/Brentwood Academy
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: In 2012, passed for 1,715 yards with four touchdowns and rushed for 265 yards with 6 touchdowns…Threw for 1,872 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior…Placed 3rd during competition drills at the Tulsa Power Camp…Selected UF over Memphis and Louisville…Coached by Cody White.
UPDATED 9:35 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Receiver Marqui Hawkins is an intriguing player in the Gators’ 2013 National Signing Day class.
Hawkins is listed at 6-foot-1, 179 pounds with a nice blend of speed and power.
Florida running backs coach Brian White was heavily involved in the recruitment of Hawkins.
Here is our Q&A with White:
Q: What makes Marqui an intriguing prospect?
A: Marqui is another one that we have tracked for four years. I remember watching him as a freshman; he was a quarterback as a freshman. He’s a big, really strong athlete. He switched positions and he’s got really good ball skills, strong hands, plays on the basketball team. He is a really, really physical kid. He plays safety too. He will run and hit you. It didn’t take long watching him as a young kid to know that he was going to fill in. He’s a big receiver. He’s a 6-2, 205-pound kid right now. He came to camp this year and did a really nice job. He’s got really good ball skills and body control.
Q: Is body control something you can teach or more of a natural gift?
A: It’s hard. I saw him play a game against DeMarcus Robinson this fall and he made just a great touchdown catch. He bodied up the defender, jumped over him and ripped the ball out of the guy’s hands. It was a great catch. DeMarcus had a couple of good catches in that game too and a big punt return. It was a fun game to watch.
Q: When was that game?
A: It was a regular-season game at Peach County, DeMarcus’ school. DeMarcus had an unbelievable one-hand catch on a dig route and a ridiculous 50-yard punt return that was spectacular, so I was watching two pretty good players compete against one another. It was cool.
Q: What got Marqui on your radar?
A: His tape was really good going into his junior year. He always liked us and he came to our camp and did a great job.
Meanwhile, had a chance to catch up with Gators OL coach Tim Davis to talk about Roderick Johnson from American Heritage High in Delray Beach.
Johnson is a player that caught Davis’ eye from the start. He is listed at 6-5, 320 pounds and can move according to Davis.
Here is our Q&A with Davis:
Q: What stands out to you about Johnson at this stage?
A: A really talented kid – actually the first kid we were really fired up about [on the offensive line]. Great length. Can play tackle, right or left. Real physical. I just like his overall athletic ability with his body size. I just think he is a great in-state kid you need to get.
Q: He’s listed 6-5, 320, so the size is there?
A: You’ve got to refine him a little bit. Put some up here, take some off, coach him. Put him in one spot to start with and then coach him for multiple spots. He’s got real good length and plays very hard. He can handle the speed rusher from outside as well as the run blocking part of it. I think he has a lot of good tools.
Q: What got him on your radar?
A: He was really the first in-state guy that I had an eye on. I was watching him play and was impressed. This kid could punch, he could finish and he was playing at a really high level. I remember they had a scrimmage the night before – a real hard one – and he came out the next day in full pads, and he was busting it for a two-hour practice. He competes at a real high level.’ We started looking at him more.
UPDATED 9:20 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The information is coming in fast and furious this morning.
The Gators have now received and officially validated 14 LOIs this morning.
The three latest players in are defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III from Wharton High in Tampa, QB Max Staver from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy, and offensive lineman Roderick Johnson from Delray Beach American High.
Also in are: WR Marqui Hawkins from Carver High in Columbus, Ga., defensive lineman Caleb Brantley from Crescent City, linebacker Jarrad Davis from Camden County (Ga.) High, and receiver Chris Thompson, a local product from Gainesville High.
Will have more info and Q&As with coaches shortly…
UPDATED 9:03 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators signed a pair of running backs in this class, early enrolled Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane out of Winter Haven High School.
Lane was one of the first seven players to officially have his LOI validated by UF’s compliance office this morning.
Listed at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, Lane has a different skill set than the bigger Taylor and sophomore Matt Jones.
We caught up with running backs coach Brian White for his thoughts on Lane.
Here is our Q&A with White:
Q: What makes Lane a good prospect at running back?
A: He is a really explosive guy. He has great lower body strength and power – in the mold of a Ray Rice, Jacquizz Rodgers. He’s short but he’s really powerful. He’s not a small back by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a big powerful guy. You’re talking about 205, 210 pounds. He runs really well. He jumps really well. He’s got good hands, excellent acceleration and good balance.
Q: Is he a guy who can be versatile out of the backfield with those hands?
A: He’s got good hands. I wouldn’t put them in the great category. His greatest asset is his lower body strength and power.
Q: How did he get on your radar?
A: He came to camp going into his sophomore year and he was really impressive.
Q: What’s something you learned about him from recruiting?
A: He was second in the state in a power-lifting contest. He’s hoping to win the state championship. He’s a really good track run. He’s running 10.6, 10.7 [in the 100-yard dash]. He can run.
UPDATED 8:40 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The first offensive lineman to send in his LOI this morning is Cameron Dillard out of Plymouth High in Canton, Mich.
Dillard played mostly center in high school and is listed at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds.
The Gators made early contact with Dillard through defensive tackles coach Bryant Young, who recruited that area. Once offensive line coach Tim Davis joined Will Muschamp’s staff last year, he took over and developed strong ties with Dillard.
Here is our Q&A with Davis on Dillard:
Q: What makes him an intriguing prospect at this stage?
A: When you are looking at the offensive line, you need to bring a center in every year like you bring in a quarterback. He was a logical candidate. He understands offensive line play. He’s got good hips and good explosion, can get to the second level. He really embraces the game, which is one thing for a young guy is hard to find – a guy who knows what everyone is doing, not just him.
Q: What are some intangibles he brings to the table?
A: He is really self-motivated. He works out and has really high goals on being the best lineman. He works out at a place four times a week that does nothing but caters to guys who want to go on [to play at next level]. Besides that, his film was great. He is real physical at the point of attack. He gets to it, has good hips. We need that type of guy who is kind of a leader. You saw all of these things from the guy at a young age.
Q: What put him on the radar for you?
A: We saw some tape and I saw from him … great effort. You watch him from the game and the game is good, not just the highlights. I was really impressed by that. He pressed his finish. He absorbs the game and does it and makes the correct corrections. He’s real tight with the head coach there and lives in the weight room and it shows up on tape. It was really evident that we needed to have this kid.
Also, here are the official bios on the first seven Gators to sign this morning:
Alvin Bailey, Wide Receiver
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Caught 40 passes for 658 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior…In the state championship game against Central, Bailey threw two touchdown passes and caught one in the 40-31 victory…All-State selection as a junior…Invited to "The Opening", an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Playing in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game at Tropiciana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.…Went to the same high school as current Gator running back Matt Jones…Coached by Sean Callahan.
Cameron Dillard, Offensive Line
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Named to the AP Michigan Division 1-2 All-State Prep Team in 2012…Selected to the 2011 Michigan AP Division 1 All-State First Team, The Detroit Free Press All-State Dream Team, The Detroit News All-Metro West First Team, The Detroit Free Press All-West First Team, All Observer First Team, and KLAA All League in 2011…No. 259 prospect in the nation…Coached by Tim Baechler.
Ahmad Fulwood, Wide Receiver
Jacksonville, FL/ Bishop Kenny
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Totaled 42 catches for 680 yards (16.2 avg) and 12 touchdowns as a senior…Participated in the U.S. Army Combine and The Opening…Big-size receiver who had 46 catches, 22 TDs, 1,141 yards as a junior…Chose Gators over Alabama, Clemson and Georgia…Coached by Mark Thorson.
Adam Lane, Running Back
Winter Haven, FL/Winter Haven
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Attended the Tampa Combine…Ran for 1,000 yards on just 80 carries (12.5 yards per carry) as a sophomore…Missed his junior season because of an ankle injury… Nicknamed “Night Time”…Chose Florida over Alabama, South Florida, Rutgers, South Carolina and Florida State…Coached by Charlie Tate.
Antonio Riles, Defensive Line
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: As a junior, he had 53 tackles and 6 sacks…Chose Florida over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Louisville and Michigan State among others… Coached by Andy Dyer.
Jordan Sherit, Defensive Line
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Invited to The Opening, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Game…Chose Gators over FSU, Notre Dame, Stanford among others…Close friends with Gator commit Vernon Hargreaves III…Coached by Earl Garcia.
Nick Washington, Defensive Back
Jacksonville, FL/Trinity Christian
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Has recorded a 4.48 40-yard dash…He was named a Times-Union All-First Coast first-team selection after scoring 11 touchdowns and intercepting two passes last season for the Conquerors…Has been starting at safety for the Conquerors since he was in the 8th grade…He chose UF over Florida State, Alabama, Auburn and Clemson…Coached by Verlon Dorminey.
UPDATED 8:27 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators also received receiver Alvin Bailey’s official LOI early this morning. Bailey is from Armwood High near Tampa is a former high school teammate of Gators sophomore running back Matt Jones.
Here is what Florida receivers coach Joker Phillips had to say about Bailey, listed at 5-11, 175 pounds.
Q: What makes him a good prospect at this stage?
A: He's a great athlete. He's one of those guys who hasn't played a lot of receiver, but he's played quarterback, so I think seeing the position from a quarterback's eyes will be good for him. He'll be one of those guys that I'll probably have to show how to get in a stance since he's been in the quarterback stance a lot in his career. To play quarterback, you have to understand coverages; you have to understand different blocking schemes, so I think that will give him an upper hand on some of the guys in learning coverages.
Q: You worked with a Randall Cobb at Kentucky, a former quarterback turned receiver who is now in the NFL. Any flashbacks in how Bailey compares coming out of high school?
A: Yeah, this guy is similar to Randall. I hate to make comparisons, but this guy is a winner. He's won at the quarterback position. He won a state championship [in 2011]. You want guys who understand what it takes to win. He brings some leadership ability with him and it's exciting to have him.
Also, while we’re on the topics of receivers, here is what Phillips had to say about early enrollee Demarcus Robinson from Peach County High in Fort Valley, Ga.
Robinson is a top-rated receiving prospect listed at 6-2, 195 pounds.
Here is our Q&A with Phillips:
Q: How much did you get to know him before he got here?
A: DeMarcus is a guy who was on the radar but hadn't committed to us. We got a chance to get into his home when we first got here. I was just impressed by the way he handled this recruiting process. It was a tough deal for him. DeMarcus is a guy who wanted to play in the SEC. He had grown up a Gator fan and coming from the same hometown as Jacquez Green. I think that was a huge help for us.
Q: What about him as a prospect?
A: He is a special talent. He's a guy -- some guys further down the field the least chance they have of making plays -- with him the further down the field it gives him the best chance to make a play. His ability to control his body gives him a chance to go up and attack the football. I'm excited about a guy like that, as long and as lean as he is.
Q: What does having him on campus already do for him?
A: That's been a huge help for him in getting prepared for spring ball and the season.
Q: What in the end helped you guys land him?
A: This recruiting deal is about relationships and trying to get them to trust you. I think that's the biggest key. In the end, DeMarcus trusted us, trusted the program that we'll do right by him. I think that was the biggest thing with he and his mom.
UPDATED 8:18 a.m.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One of the early verbal commitments for the Gators to sign is receiver Ahmad Fullwood out of Jacksonville Bishop Kenny High. Fullwood is listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds.
I had a chance to catch up with receivers coach Joker Phillips to talk about Fullwood.
Here is a quick Q&A with Florida’s first-year receivers coach:
Q: What makes Ahmad an intriguing prospect as he joins the program?
Q: I'm really excited about the size this kid has. Defensive backs have gotten real physical -- and this is a physical league -- so getting a guy with that type of frame is easy for the quarterbacks to see. For us to be successful we have to continue to run the ball the way we've run the ball, and having a big receiver that can block on the perimeter [helps]. You also have to have success in the play-action pass game. That gives him an opportunity to run past people in play-action.
Q: What other skills make him dangerous on the field?
UPDATED 8:10 a.m.
Hey folks, the LOIs have started to arrive here at The Swamp.
The first batch includes receivers Alvin Bailey (Armwood High) and Ahmad Fullwood (Jacksonville Bishop Kenny), OL Cameron Dillard (Canton, Mich.), RB Adam Lane (Winter Haven), DL Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, Ga.), DL Jordan Sherit (Tampa Hillsborough) and DB Nick Washington (Jacksonville Trinity Christian).
Check back shortly with more info on each player.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – National Signing Day has arrived.
That means the National Letters of Intent are arriving in UF’s compliance office today as all those verbal commitments you’ve heard about for months become official signees.
GatorZone.com has you covered as the newest members of the Gators football team are added to the roster.
Once each player’s LOI has arrived and been officially validated, we will have the player’s bio and information posted here on the Signee Tracker. Also, you can follow my blog here with regular updates throughout the day, including exclusive Q&As with the assistant coaches who worked closely with each recruit on the recruiting trail.
Finally, you can follow us on Twitter at @GatorZoneScott, @GatorZoneNews and @GatorZoneFB. You can use the hashtag #GatorsNSD for the latest real-time updates.